How to Get Lighting Right: An Easy to Follow Guide

Written by Adrienne Morgan

On December 15, 2020

Lighting may be the most important piece of the home design puzzle. But it’s often the least understood. I happen to be very sensitive to light, and many of us are too. Glare is my worst enemy! But lighting your home properly doesn’t have to be hard. Here are 3 room examples of how to get lighting right.

Layered lighting in the kitchen
Do you see the 5 layers in this kitchen?

Kitchens

The kitchen is a workspace which needs ample “task lighting”, meaning bright, direct light shining where one performs a task, like chopping celery. The kitchen is also often an entertainment space where guests seem to gather. That calls for a softer ambient light. Lightning designers refer to The Five Layers of Light, which you want in almost any room in order to get perfect lighting.

Layer 1 is your functional task lighting. These can be downlights directly above cooking or prepping areas. Or the under cabinet lighting which illuminates your countertops. Layer 2 is your general ambient lighting. These could be recessed can lights, on a separate switch and dimmable, lighting the walkways.

Task lighting is critical in a kitchen
Layer 1: task lighting

Layer 3 are mood lights or, sunlight. These are to make the space feel cozy and inviting. Sconces (separate switch and dimmable) are great at night for this. Layer 4 are the controls (switches, smart home features, timers) which should make it easy to adjust your lights accordingly. And Layer 5 are the decorative fixtures, like a pretty chandelier, which aren’t meant to be pure function but more ornament.

Decorative light fixtures accent your kitchen
Layer 5: decorative fixtures

Bathrooms

The main factor in a bathroom is to create flattering, natural looking light around the vanity. Follow the Five Layer concept by using ambient, mood and decorative lighting. But let’s focus on that vanity.

Vanity lighting is most important

The mirror should have soft, diffused light on either side. If LED, use bulbs with a warm color temperature. At least 3000 Kelvin (this will read as “300K” on the packaging) is a nice warm color and most flattering to your face. Whatever you do, avoid having only an overhead light source at your mirror because that crates awful shadows and glare. Who needs that?

Bathroom lighting is all about a well lit vanity
Sconces on either side of a mirror should mount at eye level

Bedrooms

This is my favorite room to practice good principles of lighting. You see, I can’t sleep. And I know I’m not alone! So I’ll explain how my bedroom is lit. And how much it can improve your sleep and overall health.

Lighting done right so you can sleep better
This bedroom displays excellent lighting

I need to dim my lights in the evening, and gradually get down to just a single reading light (from a sconce beside my bed). It is, of course, dimmable. And then I need pitch darkness to sleep. So I have blackout curtains which I adore. Then I need bright light first thing in the morning to wake up. My room doesn’t get much natural light. So I have a “happy lamp” which imitates actual sunlight (without the UV rays) to start my day. They sell these everywhere.

I hate overhead lighting in bedrooms and prefer lamps instead. But if you do want overheads, keep them dim. I have 4 lamps, one in each corner of my room which are controlled by a single switch. I put no more than 40 watts in each fixture.

Light therapy with a happy lamp
My happy lamp is quite fancy

Now that you know how easy it is to do The Five Layers, give it a shot! And let me know in the comments your favorite lighting tip. Nighty night!

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